Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 11:50 UK

The Full Story: PM's questions


Prime minister's questions in full

By Emma Griffiths

1345 All seems to have calmed down a bit now so I'll bring this live coverage of the Commons to a close now. Thanks for all your emails and texts. It's recess next week so our next scheduled live page is PM's questions on 3 June. Hope you can join us then.

Nick Robinson
1344 From BBC political editor Nick Robinson There will be much back slapping in David Cameron's office this afternoon. The Tory leader has struggled to get much attention for his call for a general election to elect a new Parliament to go along with a new Speaker. This morning Gordon Brown changed all that by warning that an election could cause "chaos". What did he mean by that, Mr Cameron demanded to know at prime minister's questions.... Read more on Nick's blog

1335 He's just said his committee did put Mr Morse forward and it was approved within days by Mr Brown.
1333 Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh is on his feet - he says by convention he should have signed off the appointment too.

1332 The PM has been back in the Commons to announce the appointment of the new Comptroller and Auditor General. He thanks the outgoing comptroller and says the new one, Amyas Morse will bring much experience to the job.

1322 Harriet Harman is asked about the "political class" - she seems to resent this implication. She says she doesn't want to be pushed into the idea that unless she was "raking in money" with a second job she was part of a political class. There's much more to her than that.

e-mail sent in by reader
Harriet Harman, aka Ms Whitewash, is floundering around here. These MPs, as a collective, are discredited. They can only regain any mandate by throwing themselves on the mercy of the electorate they have cheated. An election NOW, while Kelly gets on with his review!
Seamus, Bracknell

e-mail sent in by reader
Nothing changes...they are already working out how to manipulate the proposed new way forward on expenses.
Lee Cook, Dulverton, UK

1324 Tory backbencher Peter Bone asks whether Sir Christopher Kelly's recommendations would be accepted, come what may. Harriet Harman says it was agreed the best way forward was to agree with "as much as possible" - that was not looking for "wriggle room", she said. David Cameron has said something similar.

1323 Plaid's Adam Price says public trust in politicians was damaged by the decision to go to war in Iraq. People should be able to refer ministers who have "misled this House and misled the country" for investigation. Ms Harman says MPs are answerable to their constituents.

1323 Some laughter as DUP MP Gregory Campbell asks about moves to stop married couples claiming the maximum second homes allowance - does this include other non-married members, who might want to share a place. She says she hopes it will relate to marriage and civil partnerships - "not one night stands".

e-mail sent in by reader
This new Parliamentary Regulator seems like a bit of a cop-out - any effective regulator should be in charge of discipline as well. It's also interesting to note that there's not been any clarification of who would run said regulator. It should be by citizen's jury.
James Dennis, Nottingham, UK

boxing glove
1316 Labour MP Jim Sheridan, who has attacked Parliamentary sketch-writers for their representation of Mr Martin, claimed journalists had engaged in "racist" attacks - He has claimed Mr Martin, who is said to hate the nickname "Gorbals Mick" used by one sketch-writer, has been the victim of sectarianism.

amcronald tweets:Why does Gordon Brown assume he can speak for everyone? Pure arrogance. Read amcronald's tweets.

jacada tweets: People seem to forget that the MPs have always voted to raise their pay, lower than inflation. Yet people still complain. Read jacada's tweets.

1313 By the way, away from the Commons Mario Conti, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, has accused MPs of "hounding" Michael Martin out of office as "a scapegoat to excuse their own shortcomings". Mr Martin, the first Roman Catholic Speaker of the Commons since the Reformation - is also a Glasgow MP.

1312 There have been quite a few tributes to the Speaker which I haven't had time to mention - Tory Brian Binley is the latest to do so. He also says some MPs have been "caught out" by the changes and are "really quite worried" about the changes - he asks if there can be an appeals process, presumably for those MPs who might find themselves in financial hardship. Ms Harman says the rules will be made as clear as possible to stop uncertainty and stresses it is an "interim arrangement" for a limited period only.

e-mail sent in by reader
The current discussions on MPs expenses is merely tinkering around the edges. What is needed is a root and branch re-examination of the whole system of government. Any regular reviewer of Parliaments's operations can see how antiquated and inadequate it is in the 21st Century, and how electors have been disenfranchised.
Anthony Lewis, Hemingford Grey

1310 The chamber has largely cleared out now - Labour's Clive Efford asks how the £1,250 a month cap on mortgage interest had been arrived at - he thinks it's a bit generous and the public will find it "curious". Ms Harman says it was decided on at the members' estimates committee after looking at the average for different MPs. She said those who became MPs in 2005 had taken out mortgages when the market was "at its height" - there are some shouts about this.

e-mail sent in by reader
Sorry, but this is just sickening to watch. Absolute hypocrisy from our MPs. This "debate" should be taking place at the Old Bailey, before a Judge and Jury.
David Russell, Wakefield

1307 Another message of support for the embattled Commons Fees Office. Labour's Diane Abbott says it would be wrong to deflect blame to the "ordinary staff in the fees office" - although higher up there may be questions to answer. She says the responsibility must ultimately lie with MPs. Some back her up saying "quite right". Ms Harman agrees MPs need to take responsibility and not seek to apportion blame - even though she is sure most MPs are "blameless".

1306 Tony Wright asks if existing bodies are to be abolished to make way for the new independent body - and who will choose who sits on it? Some bodies' responsibilities will change, Ms Harman. Continuing her theme of praising committee chairmen, she thanks him for his work on the public administration committee.

autobees tweets: Just read that external audits of MPs #expenses will be inaccessible to the public due to the Data Protection Act. Where is transparency? Read autobees' tweets.

1303 David Heathcoat-Amory asks to whom an external body would be accountable. He had one of the more eye-catching expenses claims - £380 for horse manure. Ms Harman says only MPs would be able to suspend a member but setting a code of conduct and pay levels could be done by an independent body. Hmm, not yet clear how different that is from the current position in which the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards oversees the expenses system and investigates complaints, with a committee of MPs then deciding on sanctions.

1302 Ms Harman is stressing the link between an MP and a constituency and says it's important there is a professional office and second home - and that there is not a "millionaire's Parliament".

1300 Labour's veteran backbencher Dennis Skinner says he wants to see the back of those days when MPs are voting on their own pay and allowances on a free vote. "We need to put an end to that," he says. He gets some vocal support in the chamber. Ms Harman says it is not right MPs should vote on their own remuneration and they didn't want to do it.

CllrJC tweets: I wonder if reforms to expenses will have a positive impact on recruitment of women to parliament. Read CllrJC's tweets.

1258 Labour MP Kevin Barron says there should be some non-MPs on the standards committee - Ms Harman says he'll have to consult Sir George.

1256 Sir George Young, the Tory chairman of the standards committee, asks about ministerial standards - Ms Harman says that will be part of it. She also pays tribute to Sir George - who has been touted as a possible replacement speaker - for his committee's work.

1255 Ms Harman says there are many peers who want to see change too. She also says Sir Stuart has done a good job explaining the Commons' position on expenses - a job that often falls to Ms Harman - and she is always relieved to turn on the TV to see him, rather than herself

e-mail sent in by reader
"Some time this year" isn't good enough for the committee to report back.

1255 Sir Stuart Bell - an ally of the Speaker - says Mr Martin was never opposed to reform and MPs voted down proposed changes last year which could have avoided the scandal of the past week. He also raises questions about the Lords - and says he hopes it will not be an "impediment to the kind of changes we are seeking".

e-mail sent in by reader
How honourable can MPs be when they are suggesting an external policing on their own expenses policy in order to stop them defrauding it?
Robert Leather, Manchester, UK

1254 Ms Harman says a fair system is needed and says they would be looking at the question of capping accommodation expenses and the rental issue - some people's rent includes bills, which could cause a problem apparently.

e-mail sent in by reader
Love the idea of the new commission to oversee this: can I have the massively well paid chief executive position?
Tim, London

e-mail sent in by reader
Yesterday the speaker was forced out by no confidence - today the MPs are queuing to thank him and acknowledge his generosity. What a fickle bunch - perhaps they are sad to see their cash cow go
Darren John, Swindon

1249 Mr Heath is also concerned that changes address the issue of MPs being able to "hold the executive to account" - quite a few MPs have mentioned this in the past 24 hours.

1248 David Heath stands up to welcome the statement on behalf of the Lib Dems - he says some of the proposals are common sense but on some, MPs will need guidance. He says he fears there may be a "perverse incentive" in the proposals not to rent, but to buy and he hopes that will be looked at.

1247 Labour MP Don Touhig, who chairs the members allowances committee, notes that some staff at the Fees Office feel a little "bruised" and says their work should be recognised. They've not had the best of press in recent days.

e-mail sent in by reader
If the audit of expenses moves to an external body, it will not available for scrutiny by the general public due to the data protection act. We've been here before.....
Will Johnson, Manchester

e-mail sent in by reader
Alan Duncan of the lawn mower fame. How dare he stand up and talk. Like all the other MPs not one showed humility and expressed real regret.
Omar Swan, London

Ross Hawkins
1246 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Alan Duncan's just made it clear the parties have come to an agreement. Before long there will be no more bills for pet food, manure or dry rot submitted by MPs. Change is coming. But will it have come quick enough to reassure voters?

1245 It's not yet known when Sir Christopher Kelly's independent committee will report back but it will be sometime this year, Ms Harman says. The measures MPs are discussing are "transitional, interim measures" and need to be up and running as soon as possible.

e-mail sent in by reader
It seems ridiculous that in the midst of the biggest recession for a generation we have to spend more money establishing an independent body to keep our elected representatives from trying to take advantage of the expenses system - I would rather vote for a better class of MP who is truly 'honourable'
Hugh, London

e-mail sent in by reader
So Miss Harman still thinks there are 'honourable' members of the House? Is she serious?
LGJ Marshal, Kenley, Surrey

1244 Ms Harman courteously thanks him for the way he answered the question and says she knows they can work together on a cross-party basis. No party has a "monopoly of virtue" on this, she notes.

1243 MPs are listening quietly to Mr Duncan as he says MPs are there to serve the people, not themselves. The Tories are in favour of "some sort of outside structure" to look at MPs' remuneration - they also want to cut the costs of politics and he asks what can be done about that.

1242 Mr Duncan wants to know when the new rules will be up and running. He says he hopes the government will continue to proceed "in a genuinely cross party way". He says there has been a "revolutionary shift" in popular opinion on the reputation of Parliament

Alan Duncan
1241 Her opposite number, Alan Duncan stands up to say "at last" some concrete steps have been taken to deal with the roundly condemned expenses system. He's faced questions about his own claims for gardening costs, which he has repaid. Ms Harman, as an inner London MP who was not entitled to claim for a second home, is in a more comfortable position

Ross Hawkins
1240 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Harriet Harman has proposed a new external MPs' regulator to make sure they stick to the rules. It would be able to impose fines and make them pay back money. But there will be limits - it wouldn't be able to throw them out of the House.

1238 There are "hear hears" as she says most MPs are "hardworking, decent and honest" but notes there was already much public cynicism about Parliament and something needs to be done about it. She says there is a cross-party consensus for putting Parliament's reputation "above reproach".

1238 However she says disciplinary issues would still be a matter for the standards and privileges committee. It means an MPs' committee would still be responsible for suspending a misbehaving MP.

1237 She outlines the role of the new body - which includes being able to disallow claims, order some to be repaid, and issue "financial penalties". It would also oversee peers' allowances in the Lords - although some work was needed on this, she said.

1236 The Commons is quiet as Ms Harman continues to thank Sir Christopher Kelly - who is heading up an independent review of MPs' expenses. She says self regulation must switch to independent external regulation - she refers to a new Parliamentary Standards Authority.

1234 Ms Harman goes on to outline what has already been announced - MPs' claims are going to be gone through by an independent committee. Furniture claims will be banned, a cap on mortgage interest payments will be put in place and "flipping" second homes - although she does not use that word - will be stopped for this year. Married MPs will only be able to claim one set of second homes allowances.

e-mail sent in by reader
Paul Bennett: I completely agree, the Queen should dissolve parliament. Protesting to the politicians won't help, they don't listen. Maybe we should protest directly to her.
Stuart Moore, Cambridge, UK

e-mail sent in by reader
Despite all of these expressions of humility and regret, the 'Honourable Members' are still behaving in the chamber like a pack of unruly schoolboys, shouting and laughing cynically at each other. It's embarrassing.
Martin George, Birmingham, UK

Harriet Harman
1232 Harriet Harman gets up to deliver her statement on expenses - she says time will be made so everyone can pay tribute to the Speaker.

1231 Lib Dem John Barrett says unemployment could be tackled if plans for a high speed rail network were pushed forward. Labour's Keith Vaz asks that funding not be cut to the Metropolitan Police's human trafficking unit. Mr Brown says the budget will be increased, not cut

e-mail sent in by reader
At last a good Cameron question - How CAN the answer to the current crisis be an unelected Prime Minister?
Phil Lane, Stafford

1230 We're approaching the end of the session and things have quietened down a bit in the chamber. There are some questions about childcare and another tribute to the Speaker, from SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell. He also says Mr Martin was very kind to him. He goes on to ask about bank lending to businesses. Mr Brown notes there is concern from all sides of the House about bank lending.

Ross Hawkins
1229 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: While the Prime Minister's on his feet there's breaking news about expenses. The Labour Party has referred the MP who claimed for £22,500 of dry rot treatment - Margaret Moran - to a special panel to decide if she can stand at the next election. Once the PM sits down the House will start talking about expenses reform.

1228 Bradford MP Marsha Singh is concerned a shopping centre promised for the centre has not been finished - Mr Brown says he's happy to talk to him about the issue

1228 There's a question from a Tory MP about why there are not more rape convictions - Mr Brown says he will look at the figures, but praises the role of DNA in securing convictions.

1227 A Labour MP claims trade union workers are being blacklisted - Mr Brown says new legislation is being brought forward to outlaw this.

caronmlindsay tweets: I wonder who will be the first to mention Hazel Blears in #PMQs. Will she be the first Minister to be sacked from the floor of the House? Read caronmlindsay's tweets.

1226 Both opposition parties are calling for an election - Lib Dem Sir Robert Smith says the PM does not "have the courage" to go to the people and call an election. Mr Brown says this Parliament must face up to its responsibilities to clean up the system. Also there is the recession to deal with, he says.

1225 Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods asks the PM to congratulate her Durham constituency for its work on free school meals. The PM is happy to do so - saying proper nutrition is important. He goes on to detail government funding for school meals.

1225 Labour MP Phil Wilson asks a party political question aimed largely at the Tory proposal to reduce inheritance tax on properties worth less than £1m. Mr Brown makes a reference to homeowners "with a moat or not" - a dig at Tory MP Douglas Hogg's expenses claim.

Ross Hawkins
1224 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: The Speaker might be on his way out, but he's not gone yet. Nick Clegg was the only leader who called for him to go. Michael Martin almost moved on without giving the Lib Dem his second question, then left him standing mute while the chamber giggled. An awkward moment for Mr Clegg.

1223 David Lidington, a Conservative MP, says in his Aylesbury constituency apprenticeship budgets are being cut - Mr Brown says he will look into it but he's determined to invest in apprenticeships

bjobbo tweets: Cameron really starting to sound like a broken record. Read bjobbo's tweets.

1222 A complicated question about electoral reform from Labour's Martin Linton. He calls for a referendum on the establishment of a "citizen's convention" - to look at party funding

1221 More praise for the Speaker from Sir Nicholas Winterton, who also remarks on his kindness. The Speaker is getting a more receptive audience today than he did on Monday when MP after MP challenged him to go.

1219 Labour's Virendra Sharma asks about British support for the new Indian government. There are some chuckles as Mr Brown replies in a supportive manner - perhaps the chuckles are in response to the mention of the election.

1217 Mr Brown jokes that he was right about the Speaker's "unfailing generosity" to all members of the House. There is a discussion about electoral reform.

1217 There is much amusement as the Speaker calls another MP to speak before Mr Clegg asks his second question. Mr Martin jokes that he thought there were two bits to the first question, getting a warm round of cheers from MPs. "Touche Mr Speaker", the Lib Dem leader says.

1216 Mr Clegg says expenses are "just the tip of the iceberg" and Whitehall secrecy and party funding must also be looked at. Mr Brown says plans have been brought forward on funding - he says MPs must listen to the views of the people.

Nick Clegg
1214 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg stands up - he thanks the Speaker for the "immensely dignified way" he announced his resignation - he is drowned out by MPs. Mr Clegg had publicly called for the Speaker to go. The Speaker intervenes to say Mr Clegg is entitled to be heard.

e-mail sent in by reader
The members of this corrupt House of Commons should tender their resignations, and hang their heads in shame. Better still HM the Queen should dissolve parliament immediately.
Paul Bennett, Bognor Regis, England

1213 Labour's Glasgow South MP Tom Harris asks about a constituent who is still having trouble getting a bank loan for their business - Mr Brown says they should ask the bank to reconsider, then write to Mr Harris and him to let them know what had happened.

e-mail sent in by reader
Ben Bruce: Yes, I agree with you, so lets have a general election now.

1212 Mr Brown repeats there would be "chaos with public spending cuts under the Conservatives" who he says do not even have a "sensible manifesto".

Prolonged applause
1212 There is the usual back and forth about what the government has done and whether the Tories have supported it. There are laughs as Mr Cameron quotes Labour MP Frank Field who suggests little work is being done. He also brings up the Damian McBride smear scandal. He says an election would not bring "chaos" but "change" and gets a big cheer from the Tories

Ross Hawkins
1211 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: Gordon Brown warned about the "chaos of an election" on telly this morning. David Cameron is trying to make him pay for that. He's using question after question to make one point : isn't it time for a general election?

boxing glove
1210 Mr Cameron says the best way to talk about the issues is to hold a general election - he suggests the government is so paralysed it can't even organise a car scrappage scheme. Mr Brown responds by saying that Conservative cuts would cause paralysis.

1209 The Cosnervative leader says the best way to show humility is to go to "the people who put us here" and points out the US elections were held in the middle of a banking crisis. Was President Obama the "agent of chaos", he asks. Mr Brown says Mr Cameron is not raising policy points or talking about what he would do to tackle the economic crisis - to cheers from Labour MPs.

1208 Mr Brown urges "humility" over the expenses scandal. He says there have been good all-party talks but more is to be done. What the public want is for MPs to sort out the problems and deal with the recession, he says.

1207 Mr Brown says a Conservative government would cause chaos - to loud cheers from his MPs. But Mr Cameron turns the tables and says that Mr Brown had just given the first admission that he expects the Tories to win an election.

David Cameron
1206 David Cameron repeats the tribute to the soldier killed in Afghanistan and tributes to Mr Martin, the Speaker. He says he will not forget the kindness the Speaker showed him as a new MP. He goes on to ask why the PM had suggested during an interview that calling a general election would "cause chaos".

1205 Labour's George Howarth brings up the issue of the Gurkhas and asks what progress has been made - the government suffered a defeat on the issue a few weeks ago. Mr Brown says they have great sympathy for the Nepalese fighters - part of the British army. The home secretary will make a statement tomorrow, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
I can't believe my eyes. Someone honestly writing that they think Gordon Brown is doing a good job. I would love to hear some evidence
Martin Leonard, Banbury

1203 Lib Dem MP Paul Rowen kicks things off with a question about the controversial plan to part-privatise Royal Mail. A suggestion it is "losing" millions of letters a year is met with chuckles and quickly corrected. Mr Brown meant millions fewer are being sent.

e-mail sent in by reader
Are the reforms going to extend to abolishing the £400 per month food limit? Why should the tax payer also fund their eating habits?
Adrian Haughton, Northampton

1202 He also pays a brief tribute to the Speaker's "outstanding" record of service and "unfailing personal kindness" - to "hear hears" from MPs.

Gordon Brown
1201 Gordon Brown is on his feet. As the chamber quietens down he pays tribute to a soldier killed in Afghanistan last week.

1200 Over in the Commons there's much bustling and noise as the benches fill up - Gordon Brown has just taken his seat

e-mail sent in by reader
I think Gordon Brown is doing a good job and I will vote for him any day, any time. David Cameron just wants to be in the history books as one of the prime ministers of this country
Ben Bruce, London

1159 Lord Naseby, a former deputy Speaker, says on Daily Politics Michael Martin must feel pretty sad and regret the day he let the police in to search Tory MP Damian Green's office - one of the previous issues he had been criticised over

Nick Robinson
1158 A couple of minutes to go and BBC political editor Nick Robinson is in the Daily Politics studio. He says he would be amazed if Hazel Blears survives the next cabinet reshuffle. He says the leaders won't want to talk much about the Speaker as they want to stay ahead of the public.

1154 There is some amusement in the Daily Politics studio as one e-mailer suggests Charles Kennedy should be the new Speaker. He doesn't seem that keen. He says enough Lib Dems are already being sounded out. "I'll sit this one out," he adds. You heard it here first.

Ross Hawkins
1152 From BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins: There's lots of talk about cross party agreements and consensus on expenses. But they don't specialise in consensus at PMQs. With MPs on both sides of the house feeling battered by the row we're waiting to see what lines the leaders will take.

1151 Ben Bradshaw says he always thought the expenses system "stunk".

1150 The Daily Politics panel moves onto Hazel Blears - how can she remain in the cabinet, they are asked. Mr Bradshaw says there must be "due process" and an independent audit of all claims. Geoff Hoon and Alistair Darling's claims are also mentioned - Mr Bradshaw says he won't sit in judgement on others' claims.

1149 Eric Pickles said there would be no "quick fix by us" on expenses but the fate of Tory MPs whose claims have been questioned will be left with the party's membership. Ben Bradshaw says the Tories don't have the power to kick out their MPs. Mr Pickles says they can remove the whip and refer the matter to the board for reselection

1148 Pollster Ben Page from Mori, on Daily Politics, says people had never trusted politicians to tell the truth and 55% pollled last year said they believed MPs to be acting in their own interest. He thinks the public will be pleased to see an end to the "old boys' club".

Charles Kennedy
1147 What if the independent inquiry recommends a pay rise for MPs the Daily Politics is asked? Charles Kennedy says that hits the nail on the head - would a new government allow a big rise and scrapping allowances altogether? "We shall see," says Mr Kennedy. Ben Bradshaw says he isn't in favour of that - some MPs' constituencies mean they need more than others, he says.

1145 By the way there's still some confusion about whether Esther Rantzen - the former That's Life presenter - is going to stand against Margaret Moran in Luton South. The latest is she's going to decide next Tuesday but says she is very tempted to stand.

1142 The latest line from the morning lobby briefing at Downing Street is that the PM has "full confidence" in Hazel Blears. His spokesman pointed out she had repaid the capital gains tax on the sale of her London flat.

Eric Pickles
1141 At the start of the show Eric Pickles says the interim proposals on the table are a "pretty good start" and it could not have been left to "drift on" through the summer recess. Ben Bradshaw says it's a start but "won't be enough". Charles Clarke says the "tumultuous events" of Tuesday - when Speaker Michael Martin announced he would be standing down - are only the start.

1140 We'll start with some coverage of events in the Daily Politics studio - where former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, health minister Ben Bradshaw and Conservative chairman Eric Pickles are talking about the events of the past 13 days. As the expenses revelations have knocked most other stories off the news agenda, it is expected to dominate PMQs. There may be some mention of Hazel Blears - whose failure to pay capital gains tax on the sale of her "second home" was described by Gordon Brown yesterday as "totally unacceptable". However whether David Cameron will want to raise it when his own MPs are accused of claiming for swimming pool maintenance remains to be seen.

1138 Hello and welcome to our live coverage of prime minister's questions. This week we'll be doing an extra-long session as PMQs is followed by a statement from Commons leader Harriet Harman on proposals for immediate changes to MPs' expenses. Together with responses from other MPs this statement is expected to last an hour. Gordon Brown has said he wants an end to the Parliamentary "gentlemen's club" so we'll see what the reaction is in the Commons chamber.

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